The madness of immersive exhibitions: two Kahlos after Van Gogh - Companies

The madness of immersive exhibitions: two Kahlos after Van Gogh – Companies

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Two new immersive exhibitions in Brussels, dedicated to Frida Kahlo, raise the question of a genre that is obviously very fashionable. With several examples abroad, and also Magritte in Liège or Dali in Ghent. And then the pioneer Van Gogh, still everywhere.

Vincent may be turning in his grave. The Dutch genius (1853-1890), who we know sold only one painting during his lifetime, is today a star beyond the stars. Not only did he set sales records – 82.5 million dollars in 1990 at Christie’s New York for The Portrait of Doctor Gachet – but he was also the coveted object of multiple immersive exhibitions, a genre inaugurated in 2008 by Imagine Van Gogh, in the United States. -United . The exhibition already laid the foundations of the concept there: images, fixed or not, which envelop you, draw you in, absorb you all the more as they are accompanied by a more or less sophisticated sound environment. Produced in particular by the Canadian company Ideal, the current Van Gogh The Immersive Experience event has just attracted 400,000 visitors to Atlanta, a little more to Washington DC, 300,000 to New York, and so on.

Vincent may be turning in his grave. The Dutch genius (1853-1890), who we know sold only one painting during his lifetime, is today a star beyond the stars. Not only did he set sales records – 82.5 million dollars in 1990 at Christie’s New York for The Portrait of Doctor Gachet – but he was also the coveted object of multiple immersive exhibitions, a genre inaugurated in 2008 by Imagine Van Gogh, in the United States. -United . The exhibition already laid the foundations of the concept there: images, fixed or not, which envelop you, draw you in, absorb you all the more as they are accompanied by a more or less sophisticated sound environment. Produced in particular by the Canadian company Ideal, the current Van Gogh The Immersive Experience event has just attracted 400,000 visitors to Atlanta, a little more to Washington DC, 300,000 to New York, and so on. “The success of the Van Gogh exhibition is perhaps due to its extraordinary palette of colors, which gives the impression of diving into his creations, explains Canadian Mario Iacampo. The man is co-producer of various immersive exhibitions a around the world, via the company Exhibition Up. One of them is dedicated to Frida Kahlo, at the Horta Gallery in Brussels. For copyright reasons on the artist’s work (1907-1954) , this proposal is oriented on her bio rather than her paintings. The result is therefore immersive, certainly, but rather limited, at least if we absolutely want to feel the heat and the tropical pain of the Mexican creations. A challenge that better takes up Viva Frida Kahlo, Immersive Experience, exhibition initiated by the company MB Presents, since March 18 at the Grand Casino Brussels Viage, boulevard Anspach.For three quarters of an hour, a trilingual audio headset on the head, the Kahlo puzzle takes more shape there in a photogra timeline phies and paintings, at 360° and in 900 m2 of doubts and mysteries of an artist whose first subject remains herself, until the psychic torments, here well rendered by a rich soundtrack. Manu Braff, who leads the company MB Presents, also at the source of the current Inside Dali in Ghent, regrets this competition between the two exhibitions, a few hundred meters from each other. Especially since Mario Iacampo is his ex-business partner… Manu Braff: “With Mario, we had a history of co-production, co-promotion, in particular with Van Gogh The Immersive Experience on the Brussels Stock Exchange and in Antwerp. Here, I am the promoter of an exhibition created in Zurich, a collaboration between a Swiss company and the Diego Rivera-Frida Kahlo Foundation. I do not like all immersive experiences, but this one impressed me. We escape it to what is often the main character of this kind of exhibition: more a visual creation than the result of a curator’s vision and policy”. Admittedly, the first experiences of this kind already date back a dozen years, but the international outbreak of this type of event is more recent. In Belgium alone, we are currently entitled to two Kahlo, a Dali but also a Magritte in Liège, until April 18 at La Boverie. For what reasons? A number of selected works have now fallen into public law – for example those of Monet or Van Gogh – and therefore accessible to everyone, even if this does not prevent the sometimes complex relations concerning the “moral rights” of the heirs. And then the technique is constantly progressing. Orphée Cataldo is the co-manager of Dirty Monitor, a Charleroi company which employs around twenty people. First recognized for its skills in mapping, a genre that consists of projecting narrative images on building facades, Dirty Monitor has already collaborated on several of these immersive shows, devoted in particular to Van Gogh, Klimt, Monet, etc. “We also worked on the Kahlo exhibition at Viage, explains Orphée Cataldo. In this segment, what has really changed in half a dozen years is the technology. Video projectors have greatly improved in power and We are talking about instruments three times cheaper but infinitely more powerful, such as the next Barco projector which promises a power of 75,000 lumens, a far cry from the 10,000 to 20,000 still used a few years ago to illuminate buildings. has 4K devices, lasers, with a longer lifespan. But if the prices are divided, for new technologies, it is still necessary to count between 100,000 to 120,000 euros per device. As we said, Dirty Monitor also worked on the immersive exhibition devoted to Van Gogh, the latest version of which has already traveled around thirty cities in the United States. A dozen demonstrations are still ongoing. “We imagined a Van Gogh day there, continues Orphée Cataldo. With the landscapes, the places, the perfumes with which Vincent could be confronted in Arles. We do not tell a definitive story, but a journey inside a painting, 360°.” The Carolos have also exported their technical finesse to L’Atelier des Lumières, in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, a sort of Ali Baba’s cave of virtual dives – you can currently see two exhibitions there, one devoted to Cézanne, the another to Kandinsky. The venue is owned by Culturespaces, a French company that has installed a dozen spaces between Paris and Dubai hosting this type of event. “The quality of an immersion also depends on the size of the city where it is broadcast, specifies Orphée Cataldo. In Beijing, the Van Gogh exhibition took place at the Museum of Antiquities, a bit like the Chinese Louvre… Inevitably, it worked.” What about the business model of these companies that create these universes? It is multiple. The Americans of Studio Drift or Refik Anadol Studio, for example, do not finance the exhibitions but assume the design and the narration. As for the Japanese teamLab, they bring a contemporary way of working between art and money: they are associated with an investment fund. In this case, the Mori Building Company, owner of more than a million offices in Japan and China. This synergy has allowed the opening of a huge space in Tokyo which, for example, offers visitors Black Waves: Continous, where the viewer discovers the sensation of being properly swallowed by raging waves. The current trend is towards this type of fusion between money and technology. Sponsored by Epson, and still under the aegis of teamLab, an immersive museum opened in Shanghai in 2019, and another in Macau. In Miami, the Superblue space, again with the support of teamLab, offers no less than five immersive experiences, including Forest Of Us, designed by contemporary British artist Es Devlin. Proof that the immersive exhibition does not only surf on the great classics. But is it still art? North Carolina art professor, C. Shaw Smith, after visiting Immersive Van Gogh in 2021, said: “All of this around Van Gogh is spectacular, it’s like being in an American stadium, it gives dizziness, you are overcome by technology. But as a purist, it bothers me a little… To see projections that are seven or eight meters high of images that, originally, are small pictures of a few tens of centimeters by a few tens of centimeters, this can mean that the visitor will find himself in a simulation experience. It’s spectacular but it can take the place of the original piece, it can manipulate reality”. We are perhaps only at the beginning of the phenomenon. In her 2020 book, Contemporary Art And The Digitization Of Everyday Life, Janet Kraynak, a professor at Columbia University, recalled how “the museum has not been replaced by the internet but rather has been reconfigured by it”. The technological future could therefore be the combination of immersion and 3D helmets, enough to allow visitors to completely remix the images themselves. Thierry Cuvelier, co-founder of the Digital Arts course at the École Supérieure Saint-Luc, qualifies: “the feeling with a helmet is undoubtedly even stronger than in 360° immersion. With the helmet, you even lose the notion of gravity, we are lost. I therefore wonder if this phenomenon of immersive exhibitions will not, at some point, run out of steam. This will depend on the capacity of the artists who work in this field to be able to occupy the space. The time is still like a research laboratory”. That of creating your own intimate show? We would be with Monet hovering on his water lilies, with Van Gogh flying in a drone over the burning fields of Arles or alongside Kahlo sinking into the exuberance of Mexican nights. Fun and challenging certainly, but at the price, no doubt, of the initial wishes of the creators…

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